Redwings Round the World

Atlantic Crossing

11 November - 7 December 2000

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We Made It!  Aaron, Colleen and Jim in St. Lucia at Finish Line

19 November - Las Palmas, Gran Canaria - Start of ARC

Aaron - The big day!  All hands up early scrambling to finish last minute jobs: removing and stowing anchor, lashing jerry cans... actually stowing everything and lashing everything.  Gotta be well prepared.  Its been windy and rocky rolly out there.  Our friends on "Gigolo" broke their boom on the way to the Cape Verdes yesterday in 30-40 knots of wind with large seas..... The weather is looking a bit less fierce on this end however.

After several hours of scrambling we were "ready" - ish.  Ish cause the fridge is still not getting cold and our main battery banks don't seem to be holding their charge very well.  Too bad.  We are leaving.  Just have to eat all of the chicken and cheese in the first few days and run the engine a lot to keep the batteries charged.  We've got a spare alternator and regulator on board so maybe I can fix the charging problem.

Anyway, we were all ready to pull away from the dock at around 1150 for a 1300 mass start.  Boats had been leaving for about two hours and were honking and being honked out of the harbor in great fanfare.  We had hoped to leave a bit earlier, but of course were time optimists.  OK, reach down to start the engine and - you guessed it.  NOTHING!  ARRRGH!  Why now?  Why me?  Colleen had handed the video camera to the boat next to us "Roxi" to capture the historic moment of our imminent departure.  In fact it looks like he captured another classic Redwings moment.  Fortunately, after a three minute panic I was able to find and fix a bad connection on the starter motor and we were soon under way.  Mega sigh of relief.

Wow, this is exciting.  We jockeyed for position behind the stream of yachts leaving the marina.  Everyone honking their horns, flying battle flags, and rocking out to their tunes.  As we passed the breakwater, which was lined with spectators, a chant of "Redwings, Redwings" sprang up from our personal support section: NARC (Non-ARC) friends on Tango II, Gwondona, and Navarra.  After tipping our hats to our fans and looking very under control, we entered the outer harbor, hoisted the main, rigged the reefing lines, and made for the start line.  Plenty of time.  Yeah we planned it like this.  Genoa out, engine on, and along with 200 other cruising boats headed for St. Lucia, we steamed across the mile-long start line at full speed right at the gun, cut the engine, and were off!

Good start!  We were right up there and soon had clear air and were reaching off the Gran Canaria coast at 6 to 8 knots. Best sailing we've had in a long time.  15-25 knots off the port quarter and relatively smooth seas.  Great.   Here is the plan.  Head SSE for 7 miles till we are well clear of the wind turbulence around the island, head due South for 20 miles to get fully clear of the island's wind shadow, and then bang a right for the Americas at about 27 deg 50 min North.

All went according to plan.  Worked Dad through all of the various tricks of the trade best we could.  Its so much to absorb all at once but he seems to be getting it pretty fast.  Watch plan is this: four hours on, four hours on "stand by" and four hours off.  So basically, everyone will have a back up if necessary at anytime and hopefully, everyone can get at least four hours of uninterrupted sleep twice per day.

Of course, as I passed my watch to Colleen at 1900 the wind started to build from 20-25 to 25-30 and shipping traffic increased.  Never fails.  I stayed up and helped hand steer - whoopee!  We hit 10 knots a couple of times surfing downs waves!  But with Dad's watch coming up and me getting tired, and given all of the traffic (mast head lights visible on all sides) we decided to shorten sail.  First we rolled up the genoa and were just about to reef the main when the wind died, and shifted to the North North West.  Sails back out - Dad you're on your own.

20 November - 1200 GMT Position 26 deg 43 N, 17 deg 15 W

Aaron - The wind kept up at a solid 15 - 20 from the NNE and when Dad woke me for my 0300 - 0700 watch, we were averaging a controlled 6-7 knots.  We've also been benefiting from a 0.5 to 1 knot current - probably the Canary Current advertised on the chart, which runs N/S towards the Cape Verde Islands.  Hope we can stay in it as long as possible.

The wind eased to 10-15 during the morning and with the boat settled down a bit, we all took turns napping and getting things in order.  None of us had really slept much since the start given the excitement and relatively strong winds.

I spent the afternoon in the engine room fitting a new alternator and checking for voltage drops on all of the engine wiring.  Fired up the engine and, slowly, slowly the charge crept back into the batteries.  Even so, it took almost four hours to get them much above 14 volts on full blast with the new alternator.  I think they were really stressed.  Its a good thing I had Mom lug the spare alternator to us when we were in Turkey two years ago with similar problems.  Thanks Mom.  At that time, we had actually re-conditioned the existing alternator before she arrived so I never fitted the new one.  This has seemed to do the trick though so potential crisis number 294 averted.

No luck on the fridge.  The compressor runs incessantly and there is a bit of coldness in the plate but not enough to keep things more than slightly below room temperature.  We must have spent close to US$1,000 not fixing the damn thing over the past two weeks!  Arrgh.  Oh well.  Looks like the Indian Ocean diet for Redwingers once again: lentils, pasta, canned tomatoes, and fresh caught tuna surprise.  We have yet to ever do a major passage with a fully functioning and stocked fridge.  Such is life.

Based on info passed at the 1500 radio sked, we seem to be doing reasonably well on the fleet.  We are ahead of 75% of the fleet, and almost all of the boats in our division best I can tell.  The only boat in our division that seems to be really ahead of us is Eternity of Hamble, which we were tied up next to in Las Palmas.  She is about 20 miles ahead.  We owe her a bit of time as well.  Otherwise, we seem to be 15-30 miles out ahead of most of our competition.  Including Runaway who is in the division above us (supposedly faster).  We must have made good tracks last night when it was windy and we were going for it under full rig.

Colleen heated up some beef stew she made in Las Palmas and we had a hearty dinner and hot showers.  With the wind now down to 10 knots and the seas falling, we are all feeling a bit more in control and civilized.

Colleen - A little post facto interjection here that Aaron missed out.  At the risk of  being considered a drama queen, I should try to give a genuine impression of the depths of despair that the crew was put in during the afternoon of this day. Still smarting over the realization that our fully stocked fridge is not working and quickly rotting 20 days worth of food, Jim and I sat in the cockpit for hours clutching through our sea legs adjustment listening to Aaron muttering over the engine down below.  Every few minutes there would be a "f****".  Jim and I felt pretty helpless not exactly sure what was wrong and how serious it really was.  Aaron was in such a foul mood we didn't dare open our mouths.  Finally he comes up to us and says, well that's it guys, I can't get the engine started, we are just going to have to change course and sail for the Cape Verdes.  Probably before we get there we will lose power altogether and have to hand steer.  

Another, Redwings disaster, I just can't believe it. Were we kidding ourselves to think we could pull this one together in time and actually make it across the Atlantic with the start of the ARC race.

Of course after a few minutes he goes back down to give it "another try".  Before to long we hear her fire up.  Aaron successfully hotwired the engine.  Another near trauma averted....

Aaron - Yes I don't know exactly what the problem is.  Sometimes she starts, sometimes she does not.  Seems like a wiring issue but all relevant wires are getting 12 volts.   I think the problem is there is a flukey connection in the solenoid and the engine only fires up with the key ignition when the batteries are well charged.  Must be some voltage drop at that point.  But it is weird, even when I hot wire the starter, sometimes I get only a click, click, and then all of a sudden it will engage and quickly start up as if there was plenty of power.....  The key at the moment seems to be keeping the batteries well charged.  Whenever the volts are over 12.2, I can always start it with the key.

21 November - 25 deg 39 N, 19 deg 18 W, 24 Hr Run 127 nm

Aaron - Up for my 0300 after a solid 8 hour sleep.  I'm fully caught up now.   Based on the watch schedule I've set, it seems like I will be getting up at 0300, handing off to Colleen around 0730, listening to the NARC sked through 0830, and then eat and read or tinker till 10 or so when its nap time.  Back up around 1200 for ARC radio checks, read, fix stuff, play cards, ARC position checks from 1400 through 1530, take my evening watch till 1900, then lie down for a read and a sleep.  We are going to keep the whole schedule based on GMT (as all ARC radio check times are based on GMT) so as we go West, everyone will effectively have different "real time" experiences as we are moving through five or six time zones.  I noticed this morning that it did not get light till 0730 vs. 0700 in Las Palmas.  By the time we reach St. Lucia, it won't be light until after 1200 GMT.

Nothing much to report today.  Fixed Dad's toilet (replaced hose - luckily just the salt water intake hose which has collapsed on itself - what is it about the "guest head" and it's insistence on making guests report embarrassing and unfavorable news to the Captain?), got the oil pressure gauge going again, and took a beating by Colleen in hearts.

The wind fagged out for awhile at mid-day and our speed was down to 3-4 knots.  Normally we would motor, but in the ARC, motoring incurs a time penalty with respect of the "racing" results.  We are doing relatively well still and I am having fun competing.  So, we have not bothered to motor at all yet.  Therefore, our daily runs will be a bit below average.  I figure it will only be worth motoring if our sailing speed is less than 2 knots as we basically get a 100% time penalty on time spent motoring so I estimate we need to be able to motor at least three times (six knots) our sailing speed to make it worth it.  Fortunately, the wind usually comes back so the time spent at 3-4 knots had not been too painful and we have been averaging about 5 knots in 10-15 knots of breeze all day.

22 November - 24 deg  14 N,  21 deg  W, 02 24 Hr Run 127 nm

Aaron - The heading given by the GPS for our way points is weird.  According to the GPS, the "magnetic" course to St. Lucia is about 169 degrees or almost due West.  However, the actual course seems to be more like 154 based on the true North compass rose on the chart.  I fiddled with the GPS and switched it to show "true" degrees, but it still seems to be off by about eight degrees.  Strange.  Anyway, the good thing seems to be that whatever it tells us to steer, if we steer it, we stay on course for a given waypoint, even if the bearing given seems to be off.  Not sure if it has something to do with the fact that our waypoint is 2,000 miles away, some fundamental flaw in the programming of the GPS (probably do to with magnetic variation) or a fundamental flaw with the navigator (most likely).  In the end, I've decided to stick with the "magnetic" readings.

So... on that basis, we had to head 235 magnetic (220 true - i.e. pretty far South on a relative basis) during the early hours of my watch as the wind had shifted a bit more to the North.   My strategy is to keep the wing and wing rig up and "go with the flow" keeping dead down wind.  The logic is that a) the further South we get the more wind we should get and b) we don't have enough of an angle or wind to make broad reaching down the rhumb line economic.  The reports on the 0745 NARC net indicate that more wind will be found at 23 deg North and that it shifts to the East.  That is what we want and I'm going to head for it trying to resist the temptation to point more towards St. Lucy.  We'll see how it works.

As the sun rose the light revealed that we had acquired a rip in the lower part of our genoa over night.  Great.  Our 150% genny is very full and is flapping and snapping a lot in the swell.  I think it must of collapsed in far enough to catch the one of the lifeline stanchions and ripped.  At 0830 Colleen and Dad helped me drop it and I spent three hours on the foredeck sewing it up.  It is probably one of the ugliest repair jobs in the history of sailing, but hopefully it will serve its function.

The afternoon ARC sked revealed that we are still doing well on the fleet.  Out of 14 boats in our racing division that reported positions (out of a total of 22) we are in 4th place.  We caught up a bit on Eternity, but Tinto II has shot way ahead (75 miles!) and is already South and in the trades.  Spanish boat Canarias also reported (did not hear her) and she is also about 75 miles ahead of us.  Still, can't complain.  We must have lost about 4 miles while I fixed the genoa and we are still right up there.

Yogurt, yogurt, yogurt.  That is the word for the day.  With the fridge dead, we've got to try to consume all of the food that can go bad.  We each had three pretty tart yogurts for breakfast, and Colleen made a cucumber and bell pepper yogurt salad for dinner.  More of the same for tomorrow I guess.  Can't start fishing till we clear the fridge.

Took another beating in the afternoon hearts game, and went to bed at 1900.  I've been up since 0300. 

23 November - 22 deg  55 N,  23 deg 15 W, 24 Hr Run 136 nm

Aaron - Just as I came on watch at 0300, we hit the trades with the wind shifting 15 degrees to the East and building to 12-15 knots.  The winds kicked in as advertised just above 23 degrees North.  Time to rock and roll now!  We were able to bring the boat down to a course of 260-270 heading for a waypoint at 15 North 40 West which will put us well south in the trades and will be our final way point before heading almost directly West to Saint Lucia.

The bad news is the sail repair job I did on the jenny did not last and it has ripped out again.  But it seems like the tear is localized to the foot of the sail and only one panel and it is not spreading so we'll just live with it for now.  If the wind goes up above 25 we'll get just as much speed out of our other 130% genoa anyway.

Thanksgiving dinner consisted of quesodillas with guacamole (gotta use up that cheese and those avocados) and of course yogurt.  Only about 6 more cups of yogurt to go!  None have spoiled yet.

The winds and our speed build throughout the day and when I went to bed, we were averaging over 7 knots. 

24 November - 21 deg 52 N,  26 deg 00 W, 24 Hr Run 175 nm

Aaron - Now we're sailing!  Trade winds as advertised: steady 15-25 knots from the ENE, 4-6 foot swells, blue skies with puffy clouds... rock, roll, surf, surge.  Fantastic.  We logged a good run of 175 miles or a 7 knot average from noon to noon and the next 24 hour run should be much better.  We averaged close to 8 knots during the afternoon.

On the morning NARC radio net Runaway reported that they had been in contact with an ARC boat Half and Half during the night on VHF whose captain had been incapacitated and severely injured when he was hit in the head by the boom.  Half and Half had put out a MAYDAY call but had no SSB.  Runaway coordinated via SSB with a US Ham and helped arrange for a Spanish coast guard boat to help offer assistance.  Reminds you how one swing of the boom can ruin your whole day.

On the note of gear failure, at about 1300 we heard a louder than average "WHACK" from the genoa pole after coming off a wave (each time the sail loses a bit of fullness and then snaps full with a huge jerk putting a strain on the pole and all lines holding it).  "The downhaul ripped out!"  yelled Colleen and sure enough, the line that holds the pole down  was bouncing around slack with the block jouncing up and down on it.  I went forward and noted that the stainless swivel fitting that the block had attached to had failed.  It was some consolation that the plate had not ripped out of the deck.  I grabbed a bunch of heavy spare blocks from below used for the running rigging on our spinnaker and jerry rigged a new system leading the downhaul forward to a block shackled to the main bow deck cleat and than back to a point amidships and then in to the secondary winches.  This is actually a better angle for the downhaul with the pole so far aft (more forward and down than straight down) and this rig will not break.  

In the afternoon we turned on the engine to charge the batteries and make fresh water.  After awhile, we all noticed a huge vibration coming up from the cockpit. I tried different engine rpm's, dug around in the cockpit locker for something that had shifted and was vibrating, but could find nothing.  Finally I looked in the engine room and saw that the water maker was convulsing with the pressure jumping all over the place and the high-pressure hose vibrating like crazy.  Great.  No more hot showers.  We'll be drinking piss by the time we reach St. Lucia (not really, we have lots of spare emergency drinking water on board).  After tinkering with it for awhile I realized that even though the primary pump was working fine, it was not getting adequate water.  There did not, however, seem to be any blockage at the intake.  Hmmmm.  I hooked a new hose directly from the intake to the primary pump (the existing hose went very high in a loop to create an anti-siphon), and it worked!  I think what happened is that we were going so fast the water was been sucked out of the intake much like a self-bailer on an dinghy.  With a short hose right to the pump, the pump was able to get enough suction.  I think the same thing happened three years ago when we were in the South China Sea on our way from Hong Kong and I spent hours trying to get the thing going.  We were averaging 8 knots then as well.  Now I know.

The wind built through the day and just as it was getting dark during Colleen's watch, it started gusting 30-35 and the seas got very unruly.  We dipped the boom in the water and I decided to bring in the main a bit and furl the genoa.  At about the same time, the wind shifted right to the East so we ended up traveling almost due West all night under main alone.  It was still bangy and rocky rolly and no one slept.  We'll see what tomorrow brings and decide on a sail, and course, plan then. 

25 November - 21 deg 23 N,  29 deg 15 W, 24 Hr Run 179 nm

Aaron - The wind eased and during my 0300-0700 watch and I was able to get the genoa back out.  By mid day, the wind was back to the NE at 20 knots and we were again stomping down the "250 degrees true" rhumb line to Saint Lucia at seven to eight knots. 

We're in the "tropics" now which start at 23.5 deg North.  We can tell as its getting warmer and today we found the first flying fish casualty on deck.

Although the sailing conditions are as good as one could ask for, today the whole thing started to feel a bit stale for me.  The fresh water pump is for some reason not providing adequate pressure for the system and facing the relatively small task of trying to sort it seemed monumental.  Its just rough enough such that I really am not motivated to do much beyond sailing the boat, reading, and sleeping.  So far this is a good passage, but for Colleen and I, this is really more of a delivery trip to the Caribbean.  In and of themselves, long passages are rarely "fun", although they can be good experiences.  We still have two weeks to go.....

26 November - 20 deg 50 N,  31 deg 41 W, 24 Hr Run 151 nm

Colleen - This is the first day that Jim and I seem to feel like even contemplating the computer to input log entries.  Up until now adjusting to boat life has been more a priority, I could really have cared less about writing in the log, and had little to say, at least positive anyway.  The first few days out I felt like I was in a half comatose state.  I tried to blur from one necessary task to the next, and minimize efforts of all sorts.  Bathing is minimal, shaving out the window before we left port.  I stopped wearing contact lenses. Too much of a hassle trying to get them in and out, especially without a consistent water supply to wash hands (now that the water pump has been so dicey).  Its been a major effort to think about trying to feed ourselves up until now.  Other than fending for ourselves with breakfast (usually oatmeal or muslie), we've struggled to consume one light meal a day. I'm seriously worried we'll have skin hanging from our bones by the time we get to St. Lucia.  When I was buying eggs during our provisioning run Jim said, not many eggs for me, I'm worried about my cholesterol levels.  I laughed to myself. Is he kidding? He'll be screaming for calories before too long after he has experienced the Redwings lentil diet.

It took me until just this morning to really have the courage to face what is living in the fridge (which has now been filled with food but not working for over a week).  There were only two minor casualties, some unwrapped parmesan cheese and the jamon Serrano (Spanish dried ham) slices.   Miraculously, all else, appears to still be fine.  Its amazing what vacuum packing cheese at the butcher can do to extend their life. We are left with about 8 individually vacuum wrapped cheeses, 4 "fresh" tortellini pastas (they "look" OK, but I suspect when we open them they may be gross). Some lardons packets, and a pack of hotdogs.  Aaron successfully consumed the last of the mandatory-to-eat yogurts yesterday.  

We officially entered the tropics recently, and I am finally feeling a bit of heat here.  I'm ready for my every two days shower now, but Aaron is still messing around with the errant water pump.  This is one of our lighter wind days.  Although we are a bit disappointed to not be clocking in the 170+ mile days we have now become accustomed to, I think we are all enjoying the relatively speaking stability of the boat today.  Perhaps that's why we have even ventured into log contributions.

Jim - I claim the first flying fish sighting.  Having read about them and hear Redwings accounts, it was a thrill to see the real thing.  (Actually, they glide on wing like fins.)  I temporarily claimed "King of Hearts" status, but the King lost his clothes after a few days.

A touch of sea-wooziness dampened the appetite for several days, but seems to have departed.

Night watches: My assignment 11-3 (AM and PM) GMT.  The major challenge has been adapting jet lag and the new sleeping schedule to the watch needs and thereby keeping awake!  The first few were a challenge, especially with boats relatively nearby and the constant tossing of the boat as we headed downwind making sleep difficult.  I played the "only x hours/minutes left" game to keep focused.  I have apparently adapted after five days.

Nothing like zooming down the swells at night with phosphorescent foam on both sides emitting a rhythmic "swoosh" sound.  No moon, just plunging into the black ahead hoping that other craft had their running lights lit.  Add swerving to port or starboard as the wind hits 25 knots and you feel like a rodeo rookie.  (Yes, mom and Becky, I did wear a harness secured to the boat.)

Aaron - Just to confirm, errant water pump totally stripped today and all seals and valves replaced before I noticed a bunch of junk clogging the back of the outlet valve - the problem.  Could have been fixed in 5 minutes the first time if I knew what to look for.  Now I do.  Everything working now - engine, water maker, battery charger, water system... hummmm I'm going to have to invent a project for tomorrow to get out of dish duty!

Took the agonizing decision to motor this afternoon.  After making an average of just 2.5 knots some 40 degrees off the rhumb line for a few hours in the afternoon, we cranked her up in gear for the first time and did 6 knots down the rhumb line for the rest of the day under power.  Wind has dropped to 2-5 knots from the North West of all places.  Some storms in the North Atlantic and a fagging Azores high which has moved towards the Med are screwing up the trades.

We have avoided using the motor as we are we receive a time penalty for all motoring in the final results. The motoring time is added to the total time and will then also be adjusted upwards by a "motoring factor" to be determined at the end of the race depending on conditions (more wind overall higher relative penalty, less wind lower penalty).  I recon that it pays for us to motor anytime we are averaging much below 2 knots as we can do an average of 6 knots under power making up for even a maximum penalty of 200%.

27 November - 20 deg  02 N,  33 deg  30 W, 24 Hr Run 120 nm

Jim - My early morning watch (11pm-3am), under power, took more than usual concentration.  Clouds and a bit of mist shrouded the horizon directly ahead, possibly cloaking lights of boats in our path.  In addition, we are approaching the shipping lanes where the big guys don't necessarily notice the little guys.

Finally the wind picked up at mid morning at the end of Colleen's watch and the engine was shut down.  We had traveled about 120 miles noon-to-noon - 80 of them under power.

The line keeping the mainsail orderly when it is lowered ("jack stays") chafed through, creating a hazard of loose rope.  Aaron ascended the mast and cut it off.  Luckily the seas were moderate and he knows what to do.

He noticed some small tuna jumping nearby.  But that doesn't match the radio report from some of our fellow sailors: two sperm whales sighted and a 50 lb. dorado caught!

The day was characterized by discussion of when we would reach the half-way mark.  (Maybe tomorrow.)  Much reading of the St. Lucia tourism info indicates a restlessness among the crew.

It's now staying lighter later as we move west and keep to our GMT standard for watches and radio checks.  Colleen prepared a fine salad and quesodilla meal, which we ate in a comfortable breeze and gentle sea.

Colleen - one notable event, for me at least, was when the genoa stole my glasses.  I went up on first thing in the morning to tighten up the boom preventer.  With the swells, the genoa was coming in and out of the boat.  My head was evidently situated right in the middle of the ripped hole (in the sail - repair job ripped out but sail does not seem to be getting worse) for one of the swings in and my head got stuck in the rip.  With the power of the sail filled again with wind the sail quickly flogged back out, leaving my head attached to my body (luckily) by tearing my glasses from my head.  As they were my only glasses (normally I wear contacts, but too much of a pain on the trip) I was very distressed to see my glasses dangling in the ripped mess of the sail out over the water.  With the next flog inboard of the genoa, I tried to grab my glasses, but the were unluckily, or I should say luckily very securely wound up in the fray of knots. 

Aaron and I struggled for a while to pull at them, and finally Jim made it up with a knife.  We still couldn't get a hold of the genoa long enough to release them.  We finally furled her in and Jim rescued my glasses by cutting them free with the knife.

28 November - 19 deg 34 N,  36 deg 15 W, 24 Hr Run 141 nm

Colleen - Yesterday was surely our finest crossing days yet, and perhaps one of Redwings' most pleasant passage days ever.  After I sniffed enough wind to shut off the engine and raise the sails, we gently rolled along on a beam reach with 10-12 knots of breeze and very little swell due to the previous evening's lack of wind.  I thought, now this is sailing! This is what it was originally advertised as.  As Jim mentioned I decided to break out the Caribbean literature and finally make an effort to learn something about the part of the world we are about to enter.  I started getting excited thinking about spending winters in the West Indies over the next few years.  I thought of our friends Jim and Anna on Tango II that said they may set up home in the sweet little island of Bequia and run charters for the next few years.  A review of Bequia sounded charming and all of a sudden this crazy slog across the ocean might be good for something after all.

I think it was a bit too dangerous to start the reading material on the landfall site though.  I'm shocked to discover that we are still not even half the bloody way there! I can't believe after all these days at sea so far we will still have to double the time we've already done before we even get there.  Aaron reports that half way point - 1,350 miles into it, will probably be achieved about 6 hours from now.  I'm trying to get Jim excited for a "half way dance" on the deck that Aaron can film to commemorate the auspicious occasion.

I'm fortunate to receive an extra hour of light for my evening watches now that we are moving more west.  However, I give it back by waking to darkness now for my morning watch.  We got a lovely sunrise this morning, and there were two birds circling the boat for 15 minutes.  It was mesmerizing.  I tried to think about all the energy they must burn sailing across an ocean like this. 

On the downer side, we are back to wing and wing, washing machine roll sailing, having switched over grumpily at about 2am last night.  Its really still sailing that can't be complained about, its just not as nice as yesterday.

Aaron - As Colleen indicated, the wind shifted from the North to the North East during Dad's watch so we headed back to a course just South of the rhumb line and poled out the genoa to starboard.  Its is bit less comfortable, but we can't really complain as the seas are still pretty flat after two days of relative calm.

The wind built through the morning to 15-20 and shifted further to the East allowing us to come up to the rhumb line course of about 260 degrees making good progress towards our destination at 6-7 knots.

At 1800 we hit the 1/2 way mark!  For all of our other "long passages", day 9 would be close to the end of the trip.  But at least it is, as they say, all down hill from here.

29 November - 18 deg 47 N,  38 deg 49 W, 24 Hr Run 152 nm

Aaron  - Great passage conditions over the past 36 hours.  Rolling along at about six knots with 12-18 knots behind us and fairly calm seas.  Not super fast, but very comfortable and still making good time.

For me, one of the big break-ups of the day is the radio skeds.  At the end of my 0300 - 0700 watch, I listed to the NARC sked until about 0830.  I then take a nap till 1200.  Get up and listen to the ARC weather report at 1200, fiddle around until 1330, and then listed to the "Group B" roll call.  We are in radio check in "Group C", but some of the boats we are racing against are in group B so I like to copy down their positions to see how we are doing on a relative basis.  Our group check in is at 1500 and Group D checks in at 1630 - again, there are a few boats in Group D in our racing division so I like to listen in.  

Each boat is supposed to report their 1200 GMT lat and long as well as current wind conditions and any hours motored / motoring distance traveled during the past 24 hours.  With the forecasts and data points (wind conditions) of about 75 yachts, it is much easier to plot strategy on where to go to keep up maximum speed / velocity made good to St. Lucia and the best possible wind and weather conditions.  Certainly one of the benefits of doing the ARC.

In between all of the roll calls, I spend time updating a spread sheet I made with the relative positions of the 22 boats in our racing class E and the boats' handicaps.  This shows us where we are in relation to the fleet.  At present, out of about 17 boats in our class that have reported in, I estimate we are in 4th place.  Looking roughly at the 50 boats in our radio reporting group, I'd say we are in the top 10%.  I believe we are probably in the top 20% of the fleet overall which is pretty good going.

Sausage-based meals for two days in a row (spaghetti last night and lentils this evening).  Both very good, but time for some fresh fare now that we have cleaned out the remaining fresh food.  Gonna set the fishing lines out tomorrow.

New record: no ship sightings in 10 days!  We should now be in the Cape Town to North America lanes but have not seen any traffic.  We have seen only two sails over the past week as well.  

30 November - 17 deg 44 N,  41 deg 12 W, 24 Hr Run 149 nm

Aaron - Routine day.  Wind is oscillating between NE and E and ranging from 10 to 20 knots.  As our rhumb line course is WSW, we are having to jibe back and forth to keep a favorable wind angle of 10-20 degrees off the windward quarter.  We have found that even when going dead down wind wing on wing, the main will tend to block the jenny from time to time as the boat swings back and forth with the waves resulting in frequent collapses of the sail.  It is therefore both quieter and faster to keep the apparent wind a bit forward.  Jibing takes a bit of time as I need to move the whole jury rigged downhaul system from port to starboard each time.  Anyway, we are making good time and seem to be holding our position in the fleet.

I set out the fishing lines in the afternoon.  Got a hit on my favorite green and gold squid.  I made up a few more of these and will set out two lines rigged with them tomorrow.

1 December - 17 deg 26 N,  44 deg 09 W, 24 Hr Run 169 nm

Aaron - At noon, only 993 miles to go!  We are really getting there.  We'll be more than 2/3 of the way by mid-day tomorrow.  We were on track for a 180 mile day as of 0600, but then the wind dropped in the morning to 10-15 so we'll have to take 169 - our second best run of the trip. On our other passages, 170 was an average run.  This trip is a bit slower because we never motor unless the speed is less than two knots (usually I crank it up at four or less) and as the wind and currents are not really that strong.  However, the benefit is that this is a very dry and relatively comfortable trip.

I set the lines out at dawn with two new green/gold squid rigs.  The fish were very accommodating.  Soon after I got up from my morning nap and listened to the 1200 ARC weather, I strolled back to the poop deck to check the lines.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the fishing rod line jerk.  No fish on, but it looked like a hit.  Better check the lure.  Just as I picked up the rod and started to reel in the bait, WHEEEEEE WHAM! I saw a yellow and green streak tearing through the water.  As the fish hit, I struck.  One on.  Two seconds later, the heavy fixed line (no rod and reel) was hit.  Two on.  Both good sized dorado jumping and splashing and putting up a good fight.  The one on the rod and reel had already taken out a lot of line and as we were traveling at 7 knots, it was going to be tough to get him in.  I clamped down on the drag and let him hang out while I moved to land the second fish.

The thick 120 pound line was no match for the fish and I was able to get her surfing and hand over hand bring her up to the transom fairly quickly.  After a few swipes, I got the gaff in behind the gills and hefted her up over the pushpit.  Flop.  Nice fish.  At least four feet long and pretty hefty.  Say 30-40 pounds?  Not sure but its all on video.

The one fish will be more than we can eat in two days and give that we don't have refrigeration, killing both would have been a waste.  As the one on the rod and reel line was so far out, fighting him in would have probably mortally exhausted him and me, so I just cut the line.  He'll be able to shake the lure soon.  One hour later, his mate was filleted and packed away for eating.  Sad, but such is life.

As I was cooking our catch later in the afternoon, Colleen spotted a container ship just eight miles away.  The first ship we have seen in 13 days.  A new record for us.  We are in the advertised shipping lane for vessels traveling from the South Atlantic to the Panama Canal and or the US so we should start seeing more traffic.  In fact, another ship passed us by several hours later.

The fish came out well (grilled with a white wine, garlic, ginger and honey sauce).  I hope the crew is prepared for another fish meal tomorrow.

2 December - 16 deg  42 N,  46 deg 51 W, 24 Hr Run 162 nm

Colleen - I was exceptionally sleepy when Aaron woke me for my morning watch.  Its not helping that there are still two more hours of darkness into my watch with the time change.  We had been thrashing back and forth all night, with wild swings and collapsing genoas banging.  My sleep was pretty poor.  Aaron didn't give me much time to transition from sleep state to "go hand steer, I want to check in with the radio sked" (we have to hand steer when we transmit on the SSB radio or else the autopilot goes mad).  In my sleepy state I got the wind indicator backwards, and when I should have been heading down, I was heading up.  What a disaster.  In my confusion, I back winded the mainsail, which once done it was almost impossible to turn the boat back down.  Thank God the boom preventer was on, or else an accidental jibe could have been very ugly.  Aaron had to halt his transmission, to run up and help me get the engine on to steer down.  We had to release the shaft lock to do this, so the whole thing took rather a while.  I was soon better awake.

Next thing you know a squall hits out of no where.  I had asked Aaron to pop on the radar when he went back down to listen to the radio.  There were two lights to port, and I wanted to confirm they were only sailboats and not on a collision course.  Aaron hesitantly asked from below, "Do you see a very dark cloud to the left of us?"  I did.  The squall was so dense it showed up as a huge black spot on radar.  Within moments the wind was gusting from a cool 10-20 up to 33.  A wild ride.  We got light rain too.  There was really no time to reduce sail area, just hang on and hope nothing gets broke.

The only real casualty was the base of the main sail.  The outhaul had popped out and too much pressure on one of the cars ripped the sail.  A modification was easily jury rigged.

Jim - Jibing (switching sails from one side of the boat to the other with the wind behind) has been a daily occurrence to insure we get the best possible wind angle toward St. Lucia.  It has become, for me finally, a routine operation, but not without its challenges.  Among other things, it involves bringing in the genoa (head sail), disconnecting the spinnaker pole that holds it out to the side, moving the pole to the opposite side and reconnecting it, then opening the sail on the new side.

Today during what appeared to be a routine jibe, the genoa lines got fouled while the pole was swinging free.  As Aaron turned briefly to deal with the lines, I saw the pole swinging back toward him.  I yelled but he did not hear.  Luckily he received the blow in the lower back of the head, not directly in the face.  Had he heard my yell, he may have turned right into the oncoming pole!  Though temporarily stunned, he was none the worse for it all, thankfully.

Aaron created a stew from the remains of the Dorado and attempted to bake a foccacia (bread).  Unfortunately, we were without yeast.  At the grocery we (Colleen and I) specifically asked the fluent-English speaking store manager for yeast.  When she directed me to "lavadura," I noticed it was in the cake section.  I emphasized that we wanted to make bread, not cake, but she claimed this was yeast.  Colleen confirmed today that, according to her Spanish-English dictionary, lavadura means yeast.  Well, it must also mean "baking soda," since that's what it seemed to be.

So, Aaron selected beer as the yeast substitute.  The "bread" was a bit dense and did not allow full appreciation of his gourmet talents this time.

During the evening, I was struck by the vastness of the ocean and the resources of our planet.  I am reading Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson, in which the dry, rocky, barren, crater marked, canyon laced surface differs so much from what I have seen for the past 15 days.

At night, we had very favorable winds leading us right down the rhumb line to our destination - no need to jibe!

3 December - 16 deg 14 N,  49 deg 45 W, 24 Hr Run 169 nm

Aaron - Nothin doin today.  We made a timely jibe yesterday before sundown as the wind shifted East and was forecast to stay that way, and did not need to do anything more during the day other than "tweak" the autopilot up or down 5-10 degrees to stay on course and or obtain a more favorable wind angle.  St. Lucia is firmly in our sights now: only 600 miles to go which is only about four days out from here.  I think we will get in sometime during the daylight hours of our 18th day (i.e. December 7th).

Sleep is helping me pass the time.  I head down to my bunk around 1900 after the evening hearts game and a shower, read for two hours, sleep for six hours, get up for my 0300, hand over to Colleen at 0730, take a nap from 0830 to 1200 after the morning radio sked, and then its time for the afternoon radio skeds to start and before I know it, my afternoon 1500 is starting and its hearts time again.

Nothing broken, nothing breaking, no traffic, no trauma, no drama.....  just putting in 160 to 170 miles a day with 15-20 knots behind us as well as 1/2 a knot of current.  The days are blurring and starting to resemble Tom Hank's "Groundhog Day". 

4 December - 15 deg 28 N,  52 deg 28 W, 24 Hr Run 163 nm

Colleen - The auspicious event of the day was breaking out the bimini that covers the cockpit.  I had been threatening it in the past, but Aaron and Jim seemed to have the mild impression that it would be an enormous hassle and not worth it.  Jim kept saying, I'm alright, I found a patch of shade, I don't need the bimini covering from the sun.  I came out to the cockpit around 1 pm in the blazing sun.  Jim had gotten so desperate for shade that he was on the foredeck, under the spinnaker pole sitting in a small sliver of shade.  I joined him and we both had apples.  I thought this is crazy.  For a sliver of shade we are positioning ourselves right under the pole. If it were to drop, it would smash our heads.  I went below and Jim moved back to the cockpit.  When I came out again, he was crouched in the corner of the cockpit with a trickle of shade.  His legs couldn't fit in the shade and he had his raincoat over them to protect from the sun.  No, problem, I'm happy.  I said this is ridiculous, Aaron, pass me the bimini.  Within moments, our world as we know it (the 10x10 cockpit) was transformed into a splendid shady retreat.  Within a half hour Aaron even ditched his vampish ways and entered the cockpit during daylight hours to just relax and read a book.

Its hard to identify anything else noteworthy that happened today.  I asked Jim and Aaron if they can remember anything, but none of us can imagine what we did all day that could possibly be worth mentioning and is at all vaguely different to what we've been doing everyday for the last 16 on this vessel.  Here's what we came up with; there were no other boats seen all day and the new CD player ate a CD and won't spit it out.  

I made risotto, which shows a lot for how I've acclimatized to boat life.  The dish requires constant stirring over a hot, and in this case constantly moving, stove.  The Dutch cheese I used for it in place of parmesan was fine, even after 16 days without refrigeration.  Pretty remarkable.

With our "new" hang out under the bimini, there was a lot more enthusiasm for the hearts game.  We had missed it the last two days as Aaron grumped out of it.  Aaron made a bit of a mess with his snacks during the game.  He had cookies everywhere over the table, and he spilt and entire cup of tea all over the cockpit.  The game was very close.  Jim successfully shot the moon in the last round which altered the final tally of scores significantly.

Aaron went off to bed at 7pm GMT, the start of my watch. Its so light though, its probably only like 4pm at that time in this part of the world.  I wasn't sure if I should wake him up for a jibe before sundown, but after much back and forth Jim and I decided it wasn't necessary at the moment.  When night finally fell, it was a lovely evening. We now have almost half a moon directly above, and a brighter sky.   

5 December - 17 deg 44 N,  41 deg 12 W, 24 Hr Run 156 nm

Colleen -  We had potato curry.  Aaron bashed thumb trying to repair the shaft lock.  I shaved my legs.  We spent an hour discussing if we finished in 17 days and 20 hours if one could honestly say we crossed in 17 days or 18 days.  Really pathetic conversation that went on to long and indicative of our states of mind.  Its over cast. It rained a bit.  Lull in the middle of the night Jim and I woke up and said throw that engine on.  Aaron said nothing to gain  if we put motor on with a long explanation of miles faster versus handicap applied.  I replied SLEEP is to be gained if you put the motor on.  Aaron replied that that wasn't a consideration since he wasn't trying to sleep because he was on watch. 

We had a rather intense hearts session again.  I at the last minute decided to shoot the moon, which turned into a shoot the universe, which altered final scores significantly.  Aaron went to bed early, Jim stayed up and watched the sun go down with me on my watch.  We had a half moon mid-sky, which lit up the clear night.

Pretty shitty sleeping all around I think.  Lots of waking up, or I should say some sleeping between waking moments due to wild swings back and forth and violently slapping genoas.

Aaron - Colleen neglected to mention that while her shoot of the universe in hearts did alter the scores, I was still the W-I-N-N-E-R!

Can you believe it?  We have seen no boats, ARC or otherwise for what, close to a week?  We are getting closer and closer to St. Lucia and boats should be funneling together.  I'm sure we'll at least see some lights tonight.

The light air and not jibing before sunset to get closer to the making course killed our performance today and we slipped back in the fleet a few places.  I was hoping the light air would influence others to motor unnecessarily, but apparently, we were one of the few boats to experience it.  Eternity is now slightly ahead of us and to the South of us for the first time.  I'd really like to beat them. 

6 December - 14 deg 53 N,  57 deg 55 W, 24 Hr Run 163 nm

Colleen -  Waking up for my morning watch is now a bigger work out than my "night" watch.  The sun doesn't rise until 10 am GMT.  This morning we had a lovely sunrise (slow though it was in coming).  It is a major benefit of this watch to be able to experience it alone without any distraction.  I was thinking about how I was waiting for the sun to rise, and the nature of it getting light in the sky before the sun actually peeks over the horizon, when it struck me how backwards my perception is.  Its a good metaphor on the illusion of reality; we perceive the sun rising to us.  We are actually turning to it!  With a never ending swirl of ocean for 360% degrees all around me I imagined floating on this grand globe that has just made its turn for the 24 hour cycle towards the sun.

Jim was up shortly thereafter and I passed the watch on to him.  He didn't look like he got any better rest during the night than I did.  I tried to go down for my morning nap, which is pretty hard after you've just been finally jolted away with the dawn of light and day.  I only slept for an hour and a half and was woken by Aaron's chatter and the radio.  Someone gave the coordinates for what they spotted as a large metal tank of fuel floating in the water.  We are due to cross it tonight.  Another crazy thing to worry about.  I got up and made salsa and cheese quesodillas for everyone. Messy to eat, but satisfying.  I finally finished my book, a trilogy by Robertson Davies, the Deptford Trilogy.  Then for the first time since leaving port, I broke out the sun showers I had filled in Las Palmas and left it to heat up in the sun.  I enjoyed a nice hot shower!

Aaron - Dad won 16-hand final Hearts Championship tourney by a decent margin.  I was second.  I think it was fitting as I believe that overall throughout the trip, which will be over in 24 hours or less, he won the majority of the games.

Bit of a faster and more direct run today and we gained back some of our lost miles, although we are still just a fraction behind Eternity for 5th place or so in our division.  The top three boats, Tinto II, Carib, and Canarias have already finished and don't owe us enough time for us to make it up.  It should be a close battle however for the next 3-6 places and we are in the middle of it.  We are jibing a lot more now to keep on the rhumb line.

Still no traffic at all.  Very strange.  We are a bit North of the fleet, but I was sure that as the sun set we would at least see some lights of the boats as all of our rhumb lines converge.  I also would have expected commercial traffic heading towards the Panama Canal.  Only two ships in 17 days.  Amazing.

One weird thing that Dad and I have both seen once at night: an upwards streaking white light that pops in a little burst of white flame - looks exactly like a white flare.  The first time Dad saw it, I called other boats in the area on the VHF but no one had shot off a flare.  The boat Green Light said they saw the same thing and did not know what it was.  Weird.

7 December - Rodney Bay Marina, St. Lucia, Hr Run 175 nm

Jim -  Land Ho!  Wait, I anticipate.

During the early morning hours, we were moving at nearly 8 knots - good speed but somewhat off the preferred course.  At the beginning of Aaron's watch (3 AM), he decided to jibe onto a more direct course, an operation undertaken in bright moonlight and only with the required minimum of foul language and fouled lines.

We heard a warning that a large fuel tank was reported afloat and adrift in our path many miles ahead.  I tried to be on the lookout during my watch (11 PM-3 AM), but it was impossible in the dark, moon or no moon.  The odds were long against a collision in the big space in which we were traveling.

In the early morning, we all shared in the "Land Ho!" experience.  After 17-plus days and 2,700 miles, Colleen spotted the hills of St. Lucia through the night vision glass just before dawn.  At about  10 AM GMT I claimed I could seen the dim outline of those hills, but wasn't sure.  In a few minutes, Aaron confirmed my suspicions with the Captain's authoritative declaration.

For the next several hours we watched the gray peaks, then the green hills, then the white buildings come into sharp relief.  Aaron gave "Otto" pilot his walking papers, and took over at the wheel to maximize the speed of our final approach.  With skillful anticipation of wind and wave movements, he hiked our speed by nearly a knot.  

A friendly competitor sailboat appeared far to our port, but on a more advantageous bearing for rounding the island to the finish line.  The Captain's fierce fighting juices were running strong - to put it mildly.  Sail trimming was a constant effort, cutting closer to the key Pigeon Island landmark than others dared.

While we ultimately lost the morning duel with the other boat (long-term, positions are based on time and handicaps), we sailed to the finish area at full throttle.  The crew was simultaneously trying to obey the Captain's orders, communicate by radio with the committee boat anchoring the finish line, and attempting to even identify which of several boats it was!

When we did, we had to turn to starboard to make the required pass by the boat.  By now the wind would barely let us get high enough, and we were baring down on the committee boat on a collision course.  Finally, we made the position, turned and headed for the finish line to port, successfully avoiding a set of fishing nets and, again, coaxing the boat (and haranguing the crew) to make the last mark.   

Then we heard the horn from the committee boat! Done!

We had been discussing the final arrival time in St. Lucy's, hoping it would occur before 1 PM so we would make it in less than 18 full days.  Actual time was 1:21 PM GMT or 10:21 AM local time.

The final drama of the day and trip had to be played out at the latest possible time.  We were encouraged to moor in a slip between two other boats, but in a restricted area difficult to maneuver even under power.  After a few tense minutes, Captain A put us in safely, with the help of awaiting ARC staff.

Footnote to the fuel tank warning.  After mooring, the first thing Colleen noticed was a nice black tar-like swoosh just above the water line a the bow.  One theory is that we his a fuel condensed tar ball that exploded and splayed gunk on the bow.  Better than a steel tank!

Aaron - After finally tying up, the local St. Lucia tourist dudes came by with rum punches and a fresh fruit basket for us.  Reggae vibes boomed in from the main reception area.  Welcome to the Caribbean!

Almost before the lines were secure, "free lance" boat workers swarmed the boat offering cleaning, varnishing, and laundry services.  One guy with a boat that looked like a tropical garden was flogging fruits and veggies.  "Not now guys, we are tired and busy".  I was very overwhelmed by the somewhat stressful finish and docking conditions (whose idea was it to set a windward finish after sailing 2,700 miles downwind?  Hardening up and beating into 25 knot trade winds for the last 1/4 mile is insane), and just wanted my space.

Customs and immigration were there at the port and after filling out the relevant forms in triplicate, we were in.  Now we can relax a bit.  Not yet!  Spent the afternoon getting the laundry hauled away, boat reasonably tidied, making calls and figuring out about flights, and generally getting organized.  I found an electrical fixit shop and they sent over a fridge guy named "Prudent".  "You got too much gaz in de fridge mon".  Simply let out 50% of the gas and when we went to bed (at 8:00 pm!) it was still running and icing down nicely!  May miracles never cease.

Lots of gossiping with the neighbors.  We seem to be in the middle of the German contingent.  Very nice folks.  Fun to compare notes and swap tales - though as the conditions were so good no one seems to have any really good stories or have experienced any major dramas.  Boats keep coming in 1-2-3 per hour.

We seem to have done about as expected.  Tinto II, Canarias, Carib, and Klenkas all finished ahead of us in our division (of 26 boats) and beat us on corrected time.  The battle for 5th place will be tight between us and Eternity.  They should finish sometime tomorrow.   We owe them about 17 hours as we motored 13.5 hours more then them and we owe them a little time as we are a slightly faster boat as well.  Should be close.

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